How to Maintain Organic Soil Fertility

Overview

Over the years, gardeners and farmers have been told that adding fertilizers and pesticides is the only way to produce beautiful, healthy plants and that without these chemicals, their plants would be susceptible to damaging pests, disease and malnutrition. It is not necessary to use these chemicals, and it has been proven that a garden with healthy, organic soil can fend off many pests and diseases on its own. Composted materials add the nutrients needed for healthy plant growth.

Step 1

Compost any organic materials you have around the yard. Start with dried leaves or chopped-up dried twigs, shredded paper, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells or dried garden surplus; use this as the base for the compost by filling the bottom 4 inches with dried products.

Step 2

Add a 4-inch layer of wet organic materials such as fresh garden surplus, vegetable and fruit peels, fresh grass clippings, or other kitchen scraps. Do not include meat or dairy scraps or human, cat or dog feces. Alternate dry and wet layers in the compost bin--sprinkling with water after each addition of wet materials--until the compost bin is between 1/2 and 2/3 full.

Step 3

Mix the compost with a pitchfork--or if it is a tumbling compost bin, tumble the contents--until the contents are mixed thoroughly. Allow compost to sit, rotating the contents every few days or at least once a week. Check the directions that came with your compost bin, if it was purchased, and follow the recommended procedures if the wait time is different than this.

Step 4

Remove the composted materials in approximately two to three months--this measurement of time greatly depends on the type of compost bin and the weather conditions surrounding your bin--the compost should have turned to dark, rich organic matter.

Step 5

Spread 1 to 2 inches of composted materials around each plant in the garden and gently mix into the soil. Try to avoid disrupting any roots by using a small hand trowel or rake and mixing just along the surface, staying at least 3 or 4 inches away from the base of each plant.

Step 6

Inspect the garden a few times each week and pull any weeds. Weeds aggressively remove the nutrients from the soil and deprive plants of the food they need.

Step 7

Replenish the composted materials once every week or so, as needed to continue providing the plants with nutrients during the growing season.

Step 8

Plant cover crops such as alfalfa, soybeans or other legumes at the end of the growing season of vegetable gardens. When the crop is maturing or as winter moves in, till these crops into the soil so that they can add nitrogen to the soil over the next few months. Legumes have the ability to pull nitrogen out of the air and store it in their roots.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost bin
  • Dried leaves
  • Grasses and garden scraps
  • Vegetable table scraps
  • Animal manure
  • Water
  • Shovel

References

  • Maine Organic Farmers Association: Basics of Organic Soil Fertility
  • North Carolina State University: Organic Soil Fertility Management
  • West Virginia University: Maintaining Soil Fertility
Keywords: keeping a garden organic, organic soil fertilizer, fertilizing organic soil

About this Author

Robin Lewis Montanye is a freelance artist, designer and writer. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, national magazines and on several self-help areas of the web. Montanye specializes in gardening articles with information from several universities. She has Internet articles published on Gardenguides.com, eHow.com and Suite101.com.